While your firm stays busy balancing books and staying profitable, the expectations of your clients are on the rise. Eighty-two percent of accountants say their clients demand more from them today than five years back.
This means, in addition to all your responsibilities, you have to cut out time for expanding service offerings and strategic initiatives. And while you’re at it, more firms are entering the market, increasing the competition and making it tougher to stay relevant.
What’s the way out? Selecting the right software can help you pack away many routine tasks, such as journal entry, billing, and reconciliation, and clear up space to focus on more strategic tasks such as diversifying offerings and improving client relationships. A majority (67%) of accountants say cloud technology is helping them improve service offerings and client collaboration.
However, selecting the right software for accounting firms is not easy. You need to research the tool’s performance, the software provider’s track record, and whether or not it offers the key features you want, among other things. The good news is that we’ve already done the research for you and shortlisted the best products for your accounting firm.
Why do we call them best? It’s because all of these tools feature in GetApp’s 2020 Category Leaders reports (an annual ranking of top software tools) for budgeting, accounting, and expense management. They have overall user ratings higher than 4 (out of 5) and 10+ user reviews on GetApp (read full selection methodology at the bottom).
Planning budgets and creating forecasts is a considerable hassle for accountants. While some may struggle with spreadsheet formulas, others may end up overestimating the budget or underestimating expenses. As per our 2019 budgeting and forecasting survey, 25% of respondents worry about underestimating expenses, whereas 18% worry about overestimating their budget.
Budgeting software can help you plan and create forecasts more accurately. It can help plan and manage financial resources and estimate growth, profitability, and expenses. You can get accurate company-wide estimates, as various departments can add their projected expenses and revenues to the software.
Here’s how your accounting firm can make the most of budgeting software:
Create what-if scenarios to forecast how events or market trends may impact clients’ balance sheets.
Monitor the inflow and outflow of cash, and see how it impacts clients’ budgets.
Create various budget models to predict future revenue and expenses.
To help you pick the right budgeting tool, we’ve shortlisted the three best options. The list is arranged alphabetically.
User rating: 4.8/5
Number of reviews: 60+
Float Cash Flow is a budgeting and planning platform. It helps your firm offer clients accurate, real-time insights about their finances. The tool makes it easy to generate insightful reports on planned vs. actual budget and highlights over- or underspending. You can also use the tool to predict clients’ financial position through forecasting and what-if scenarios.
What’s more? You can compare multiple what-if scenarios to see how a particular budget decision will pan out in the long run. Armed with such data, you’re better positioned to share quality insights with clients.
Pricing info: The starting price of Float Cash Flow is $59 per client per month. All partner plans offer a 30-day free trial that starts when the first client is onboarded.
Click here to read user reviews of Float Cash Flow.
User rating: 4.6/5
Number of reviews: 102+
LivePlan is business and financial planning software that offers targeted solutions for entrepreneurs, incubators, enterprises, small business development centers, and Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) firms.
You can use LivePlan to build visual reports with graphical data representations for clients to compare planned vs. actual budget or previous year’s budget against the current year’s. You can also analyze their revenue and expenses using the performance dashboard and make the required adjustments.
Pricing info: The starting price of LivePlan is $15 per month, billed yearly.
Click here to read user reviews of LivePlan.
User rating: 4.5/5
Number of reviews: 42+
Prophix is a corporate performance management platform that offers a budgeting and planning module.
The module’s stress testing function helps anticipate potential financial shortfalls caused by adverse events such as market slump or price changes. It also helps align the budget with the client’s business by sharing insights about investments and potential risks.
Pricing info: The pricing of Prophix is not publicly available. However, you can get a free trial by contacting Prophix’s sales team.
Click here to read user reviews of Prophix.
Accounting is a complex and data-heavy task, more so when you have to manage books for several clients. Manual journal entries in such cases are not only tedious but also error-prone. To add to that, clients are increasingly expecting firms to offer more strategic insights into their financial data.
Using accounting software can help tackle many of these challenges by automating repetitive tasks. Automation will open up more time for your firm to cater to the more strategic needs of your clients.
Accounting software helps manage general ledgers, accounts receivable and payable, bank reconciliations, and financial statements. While some products do offer invoicing, budgeting, and expense management features, these are not the core components of the overall category and may not necessarily be included in all accounting tools.
Here are some ways you can use an accounting system at your firm:
Record clients’ financial transactions to generate financial statements, such as profit and loss statements and the balance sheet.
Manage and process accounts payable and receivable.
Reconcile clients’ bank account records to ensure transactions are accurately represented in the books.
To help you find the right tool to manage these functions, we’ve created a list of the three best accounting tools (listed alphabetically):
User rating: 4.4/5
Number of reviews: 54+
FreeAgent is a cloud-based accounting solution that offers all the essential features for managing books. From taxes to bank reconciliation, your firm can manage it all with this tool.
In addition to bookkeeping, the tool highlights the real-time profit and loss status and which invoices have been paid and which are overdue. It also offers a monthly snapshot of your cash flow and helps you monitor clients’ expenses, set up recurring expenses, and track bank payments.
Pricing info: FreeAgent costs $12 per month for the first six months and $24 per month thereafter. You can also try the tool for free for 30 days.
Click here to read user reviews of FreeAgent.
User rating: 4.5/5
Number of reviews: 115+
KPMG Spark is a cloud-based accounting platform.
With this tool, your firm can get a real-time view of your clients’ revenue, expenses, and balance. The tool automatically and continuously reconciles accounts in the background, so you don’t have to take out time for monthly reconciliation. In addition to taking care of your journal entries, the tool also manages invoicing and payments, tax preparation, and payroll.
The tool uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to categorize and manage your clients’ books, sparing you the heavy lifting and getting more work done in less time.
Pricing info: The starting price of KPMG Spark is $195 per month, billed yearly—this plan supports up to three accounts.
Click here to read user reviews of KPMG Spark.
User rating: 4.5/5
Number of reviews: 58+
Sunrise is a cloud-based accounting tool, previously known as Billy.
You can use this tool to manage expenses, financial reports, invoices, billing, and more. The tool also helps you create recurring invoices, set up automatic payments, and generate accurate balance sheets.
The tool offers a dedicated tax assistant that can help with estimating taxes and managing the tax documents smoothly.
Pricing info: The base plan for Sunrise costs $149 per month and supports up to 120 transactions per month. The tool also offers a free version that offers double-entry based accounting, customized invoices, bank transactions matching, and cash flow reports.
Click here to read user reviews of Sunrise.
Tracking expenses for clients is a crucial responsibility for accounting firms, but it comes with its share of hassles. Lost expense receipts, lengthy approval cycles, manual data entry errors, and noncompliance with company policies are only some of the challenges you will frequently witness during expense management.
And there are expense reimbursement frauds too. In fact, they are the third most common type of fraud under asset misappropriation frauds and add up to a loss of approximately $33,000 for businesses.
Expense management tools can enable accounting firms to tackle many of these challenges. These tools can help track, process, and audit expense claims submitted by employees. By ensuring data accuracy and compliance, you’ll also be able to avoid expense reporting errors, analyze spending trends, and simplify reimbursements.
Here’s how your firm can use expense management tools:
Submit expense receipts to accurately track expenses. While some tools may let you take pictures from their mobile app, you may have to manually upload the pictures in some products.
Automatically fetch expenses as soon as they reflect in the bank account.
Reconcile expenses by pulling monthly credit card or bank statements to ensure no expense gets missed out or reported inaccurately.
Streamline the process of approving expenses through an automated approval workflow.
Flag and manage noncompliance with client policies.
We’ve picked the best expense management tools for you (arranged alphabetically).
User rating: 4.7/5
Number of reviews: 1,214+
Certify Expense is cloud-based expense management, accounts payable, and travel management tool.
You can use the tool to streamline expense approvals, reimbursements, and report generation. The tool helps reduce manual errors by allowing your clients to take pictures of expense receipts. It’s optical character recognition (OCR) technology, ReceiptParse, automatically extracts the data from these receipts and populates them into the relevant fields.
You can also reduce instances of fraud and ensure compliance with client policies through its InstantAudit functionality.
Pricing info: The base plan for Certify Expense costs $8 per user per month; it supports up to 25 employees.
Click here to read user reviews of Certify Expense.
User rating: 4.5/5
Number of reviews: 751+
Expensify is a business travel, receipt, and expense management app.
Expensify’s web and mobile apps make it easy for you to capture clients’ expense receipts, get them approved electronically, and push the data directly into your accounting tools through integration. Expensify integrates with major accounting tools such as Sage, QuickBooks, and Xero.
The provider also offers a free Expensify card (a corporate card that generates an expense entry in Expensify with each swipe) that captures and automatically reconciles your clients’ expenses. This enables you to ensure accuracy of each transaction without necessarily involving the compliance team.
Pricing info: The starting price of Expensify is $5 per user per month.
Click here to read user reviews of Expensify.
User rating: 4.2/5
Number of reviews: 1,247+
SAP Concur is a cloud-based suite of travel (Concur Travel), invoicing (Concur Invoice), and expense management tools (Concur Expense).
Concur’s mobile app comes with a built-in receipt management module, ExpenseIT, that allows employees (in clients’ organizations) to take pictures of their expense receipts. These images are then passed through an electronic approval workflow, after which the expense can be registered and reimbursed.
The tool can also integrate with accounting software, including Xero, Sage, and QuickBooks, to capture these transactions directly in your books. This saves time for both your clients and your team. SAP Concur also complies with ISO 27001, SOC 1 / SSAE16, and PCI standards.
Pricing info: The pricing of SAP Concur is not publicly available. However, you can get a free trial of the tool by contacting their sales team.
Click here to read user reviews of SAP Concur.
Before you finalize any of these tools, here are some things to keep in mind to ensure you make the right choice:
Take a demo: A product demo can help you get an up-close view of the tool’s features and discuss any queries you may have with the software vendor. However, before you go for the demo, make sure to do some research and jot down any questions. Here’s a five-point checklist for acing product demos.
Check out related software: You can also check out related software tools that may complement the product you pick. For example, payroll software and tax management software may come in handy if your firm offers these services to clients. If not, you can go for a generic accounting practice management software.
If you need more help finalizing the software or just want some handy tips, check this ultimate guide to accounting software features and benefits.
For each category (budgeting, accounting, and expense management), we referred to their individual GetApp Category Leaders reports and judged the products therein on the following criteria, until we had three qualifying products:
The tool should have a user rating higher than 4 (out of 5) on GetApp (information accessed on Aug 8, 2020).
The tool should have 10+ user reviews on GetApp (information accessed on Aug 8, 2020).
The tool should have at least half of the below-mentioned features. We identified these features based on secondary research and in-house expertise:
-For budgeting: Asset planning, cash management, expense management, multi-department collaboration, strategic planning, and version control.
-For accounting: Billing, budgeting, invoicing, and expense management.
-For expense management: audit trails, credit card reconciliation, approval workflow, mobile app, accounting integration, electronic receipt, and automatic expense import.